This week marks the Juneteenth holiday. In honor of this important day in American history, several Community Solutions staff members have written about the history of Juneteenth, and every day this week we will share posts about the holiday, the lasting impact of slavery and what structural racism means for Black Americans to this day. Read the previous installment of our Juneteenth blog series here.
The Civil War, the Great Migration, the civil rights movement— significant points in American history that students across the nation learn about, usually during Black History Month, but Juneteenth isn’t usually a part of that list. The reemergence of Juneteenth—its story, celebrations and place in history—has many asking the same question “Why have I not heard about this?” There could be many reasons why Juneteenth isn’t taught in schools—changes in educational requirements, state laws or a lack of support to include curriculum that highlights America’s past transgressions. Regardless of the reasons, current events have pushed Juneteenth into the spotlight where teachers and students are working to have it included in school curriculums.
The reemergence of Juneteenth—its story, celebrations and place in history—has many asking the same question “Why have I not heard about this?”
But can schools cover Juneteenth and other historical moments of American history in the 45 minutes they have with students during a typical school day or week? Maybe, but they can’t do it alone. Education doesn’t start in school; it begins at home and in the community. And that was how Juneteenth was initially taught. After enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas, which we recognize as Juneteenth, freed Blacks (African-Americans) celebrated their freedom with fishing, horseback riding and barbecue. They tossed aside the garments of their enslaved lives and the garments of their former masters. This tradition continued until 1900. As classroom instruction and textbook use grew, lessons of The Civil War only included the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, not the final enforcement of it. Home and community teachings, where one would learn about the traditions of Juneteenth, lessened. As a result, it slowly moved into obscurity.
While including Juneteenth in textbooks and school lesson plans would be an excellent start, community engagement is key in keeping momentum and recognition going.
While including Juneteenth in textbooks and school lesson plans would be an excellent start, community engagement is key in keeping momentum and recognition going. Lack of funding and testing requirements can hinder many school districts that try to implement Juneteenth into their curriculum. Working with existing resources–heritage centers, museums and libraries–can provide schools with the support they need, expand the outreach of those organizations, while engaging and educating children and their families.
Read the previous installment of our Juneteenth blog series here.